January 23, 2013 - 5:00am

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

NANAIMO, BC – At a luncheon on January 24 in VIU’s Discovery Room, students from VIU’s Faculty of Management’s Hospitality Management and Recreation and Tourism Management programs, were recognized with one of VIU’s newest awards – the VIU Co-op Student of the Year Award.

The award is the initiative of Lynda Robinson and Micki McCartney, VIU Co-Operative Education Instructors/Coordinators, who wanted to recognize students who were ambassadors of the co-op program, impressing their employers with their skills and work ethic and connecting their work experiences to what they learned in the classroom.

“The co-op experience is a central component of these programs,” said McCartney, “giving students the opportunity to get real-life career related experience – and paid work – while completing their degrees. We felt it was important to recognize students who exceeded expectations during their co-op work term.”

One of the first students to receive the award was Sarah LaBarre, who completed her diploma in Hospitality Management in December 2012. She spent her co-op at downtown Nanaimo restaurant 2 Chefs Affair and was recognized because her performance, maturity, initiative and strong work ethic so exceeded the expectations of the owners, they wanted to hire her permanently.

LaBarre was thrilled to receive the award, particularly as she felt her co-op was critical to her educational success, providing a natural bridge between the classroom and the workplace and a safe space for her to explore career options. “I definitely drew on things I had learned in class—in areas like marketing, cost control and food production—but there really is no substitute for hands-on experience.” LaBarre also paid for most of her fall tuition using her earnings from her co-op position and accepted the offer of employment from 2 Chefs Affair, continuing to work part time while completing her last semester.

The Recreation and Tourism Management award went to three students: Mike Bauche, Kassandra Kirkham and Nichola Evernden. They were nominated as a team for their work on the Heart of Gold Community Empowerment Project in the Los Santos Region of Costa Rica. “We couldn’t have achieved what we did without the work of each other, as we all brought our own strengths and skills to the table,” said Bauche.

All three felt their co-op experience was life-changing. “We were able to apply our skills and knowledge in a hands-on learning environment and improve our Spanish language skills,” said Evernden.

“We also developed friendships and networks that will last a lifetime,” said Kirkham. “Having the opportunity to work on community development has enabled us to return to Canada with new perspectives and skills that we can apply within our local communities.”

Dave Twynam, Dean of Faculty of Management, and Dave Witty, Provost and Vice-President Academic, were both on hand at the luncheon to give out the awards and congratulate the students.

“The co-op experience is an important opportunity for our students to engage in ‘hands-on’ interaction with communities and employers, and to gain first hand practical experience in their areas of interest,” said Witty. “Such activity provides a bridge between academic life and application of skill sets learned at VIU. I am a strong supporter of such experiential learning.”

A committee of faculty from the Faculty of Management, and an employer partner, consider the nominations and choose the two best students (or team of students), one from Hospitality Management , the other from Recreation and Tourism. Successful students are each awarded $250 at the luncheon. Their names are also inscribed on a plaque that’s on permanent display in the Faculty of Management awards case.

“We knew an award like this would also strengthen the natural links between the university, our programs and our employer partners,” says Robinson. “This award aligns with VIU’s Academic Plan, specifically the recommendation regarding student learning, engagement and success. The award also supports the Academic Plan’s strategies to create opportunities for experiential learning and ways to encourage student engagement and retention.”

To be considered for the award, students must meet certain criteria including having a significant positive effect on the co-op employer or organization, getting an invitation to return to work by the employer or organization, exceeding the expectations of their manager and performing so well that the employer is encouraged to hire other VIU co-op students.

Nominations for the 2013 Co-op Student of the Year awards will be accepted in September 2013, after summer co-op work terms have been completed. For more information contact McCartney at or 250.740.6387 or Robinson at or 250.740.6428.

For more information on the Heart of Gold Community Empowerment Project please see .

Tags: In the Community

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